Kaylee Radzyminski focuses on new way to make a difference
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG, Banner Staff Writer
May 15, 2013 | 1618 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TOM ROWLAND, the mayor of Cleveland,  salutes 2nd Lt. Kaylee Radzyminski at her reception to celebrate her college graduation and the start of her career in the U.S. military.  Banner photo, CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
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Kaylee Radzyminski, a Cleveland native who founded the nonprofit Tunes 4 the Troops at the age of 15, has recently been commissioned in the military.

Members of the community gathered at the Mountain View Inn Tuesday afternoon to congratulate her on her college graduation and new commission as a second lieutenant in the Military Intelligence branch of the U.S. Army Reserve.

Commissioned this past Friday in Cookeville, she had chosen Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, a veteran of both the Air Force and the Tennessee State Guard, to take part in the ceremony with her.

Radzyminski graduated Saturday from Tennessee Technological University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in geographic information systems with a minor in military science. She attended college on a full Army ROTC scholarship.

Having received her commission at the age of 21, she is set to move to her new duty station at Fort Campbell, Ky. She described her graduation and commissioning as being “a long time coming.” 

“I wanted to get out there ... make a difference,” she said.

Her first step toward her new position will have her heading to Washington state for training on May 31.

By January, she will have begun to settle into her work as a second lieutenant at Fort Campbell.

She said she does not know what her exact duties will be — just that she will working with military intelligence.

While she has been known by many as the founder of Tunes 4 the Troops, her focus for the past few years has been on launching her military career.

“It seems like more of a memory now,” Kaylee said. “It’s two different chapters of my life.” 

Because of her new commitment, Tunes 4 the Troops has ended. Kaylee founded the organization after meeting military personnel who said one of the things they missed about home was getting to listen to music.

She said that touched her and made her decide to gather her own CDs to send overseas. She asked her friends to help by sending some of their CDs, and it all grew from there.

By December of last year, Tunes 4 the Troops had packed and sent 1.6 million CDs and DVDs, as well as items like MP3 players, gift cards to download music online and video game systems with games.

She said she doesn’t know how much of a lasting difference her efforts made, but she said it all stemmed from a desire to serve her country by helping those deployed overseas.

“I’ve never been deployed myself, so I’ll never know the effect I had,” Kaylee said.

But, now, she said she’s excited about “helping in a new way.”

Her grandfathers and some of her great-uncles served in the military, so she said she grew up with a great respect for those who served their country in that way. She said she knew she wanted to join the military as early as the age of 8.

While she had always wanted to have her grandfather participate in her commissioning ceremony, he passed away before he had the opportunity.

Kaylee said she had asked Rowland to participate because she had known him since she was a little girl.

She said he “filled that grandfather role” for her and wanted to thank him by making him a part of something that was really important to her.

Stephanie Radzyminski, Kaylee’s mother, said she is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments so far, and asked that people in the community pray for Kaylee as she embarks on her upcoming journey.

An only child, Kaylee moved to Cleveland from California at the age of 8. Because Kaylee had been expressing interest in joining the military since then, her mother said she was not surprised her daughter has made it to where she is now.

“God gave me guardianship of an amazing young woman,” Stephanie said. “How many 21-year-olds know what their life’s mission is and are living it?” 

At Tuesday’s reception, a table near the door featured a pair of glittery red boots Stephanie said was reminiscent of Dorothy’s red shoes in “The Wizard of Oz.” 

Just as the character said “There’s no place like home,” Stephanie said he hoped Kaylee would remember the same thing no matter where she ends up.

Kaylee said she would never forget the people in the Cleveland area who have been there for her over the years.

“I would not be where I am today without my mom, my family and everyone in the community who impacted my life,” Kaylee said.